Today we are looking at two examples of prewar/wartime Beretta compact pistols. The first is a Tipo Alleggerito Model 34 in .380. This was developed because of a quirk in Italian law which prohibited the civilian sale of military small arms. Beretta had been selling the Model 1934 commercially for a few years before it was adopted by the Italian military, and that adoption turned it into a de facto military weapon, thus prohibiting further commercial sale. Beretta complained to the government, and cited two rather odd arguments for why they should be able to continue selling them. First, the claimed that .380 was a large caliber and thus more suited to close range than long range and thus more of a civilian weapon than a military one. Second, that it was recognized that pistols under 600g (about 21 ounces) were widely acknowledged to be civilian. Following this second argument, they made a small number of lightweight model (“Tipo Alleggerito”) Model 1934s with enough material removed from the barrels to weigh in just under 600g.
The Italian government rejected both arguments, however, and the guns never went into real production.
The second pistol is an aluminum alloy framed version of a Model 1935 in .32ACP. This model was not used by the Italian military, so it was fair game to sell to the civilian market. Beretta made a small number of guns in 1940 and earlier using aluminum frames for a lighter gun, and this is one of them. They did try this on the .380 caliber Model 1934, but found the recoil to be a bit too heavy for long-term durability of the barrel seat. After World War Two, this sort of aluminum frame became common on the compact Beretta pistols sold commercially, but the design was developed before the war.